The latest dirt

Read below to find out about:

  • Toxic Spray and Pollinators
  • New Country of Origin Labeling
  • Pollinators in the Garden

Toxic Spray and Pollinators

By Joy Phillips, Sprout Board member

“Agricultural sprays are causing huge losses for Tasmania’s pollination industry”, says Karolin Macgregor of TasCountry.

According to BeeAware “One of the most common causes of bee poisoning is spray drift. This is where a pesticide has been applied to a crop that is not in flower but has drifted onto flowers of other plant species” i.e. non-target plants. This is exactly where you don’t want to be if you are a pollinator gathering nectar, water or pollen; i.e. touching these toxic sprays.

Further information on pesticides which are toxic to pollinators.

Other possible toxic contaminates to bees/pollinators are fungicides, surfactants and synergism – ‘chemical cocktails’.

Risk management information for beekeepers and farmers to consider.

A list of “349 broad-acre and horticultural pesticides know to be toxic to honeybees in Australia” is included here:

Honey bee pesticides poisoning – : A risk management tool for Australian farmers and beekeepers, published by RIRDC in May 2012 & written by Daryl Connelly.

This publication “outlines good practices for farmers and beekeepers to adopt, and contains a number of useful forms, contact details and other relevant information” and is free to download.

“While honey bees are a versatile and efficient crop pollinator, many wild insect taxa, including bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and moths, are equally or more efficient crop pollinators.

Wild pollinators can provide pollination insurance as environmental changes occur.

Intensive management practices and widespread chemical use in agricultural landscapes are putting increased pressure on wild pollinators in other parts of the world, but little is known about the impacts of these drivers on Australian pollinators.” 

From - The Forgotten Pollinators: Challenges for managing wild pollinators in Australia by Dr M. Saunders, Charles Stuart University; Dr R Rader, University of New England; Dr S Cunningham, CSIRO (Sept 2014)

As you can see from above, Native bees as alternative pollinators have an important role to play too.

Tasmanian ABC Country Hour program recently interviewed the Tasmanian scientists monitoring bee's movements with tiny sensors glued to their backs.

A positive step in helping our pollinators is to create an integrated pest management (IPM) plan and then implement it on your property.

Here are few links to get you started on developing your own individual IPM plan:

Good description of what an IPM plan is

Biological control options explored

IPM for small farms - a beginner's guide

Great resource links and further reading suggestions

A paper recently published on the health affects of herbicides on humans is well worth further reading.

GMOs, Herbicides and Public Health published in The New England Journal of Medicine (20 August, 2015) by Philip Landrigan M.D. & Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.

New Country of Origin Labeling

And if you haven’t already heard, there is a new Country of Origin labelling that will be coming into affect.

The actual designs for the labels can be seen here:

After the scare of the imported frozen berries a few months back, it’s worth reading the following links from Choice Magazines research into pesticides in imported vegetables, chemicals found on strawberries as well as the chemicals allowed to be used on Australian grown strawberries (which is banned in a majority of other countries around the world.)

Pollinators in the Garden

By Lee Adamson-Ringk, Killiecrankie Nursery

So it’s nearly Spring. Love is in the air. Literally.

That love takes wing, scurries, creeps, crawls, hops and runs – the pollinators have emerged.

A gentle breeze wafting a cloud of pollen between hazelnut catkins, quite and unseen bats dance upon evening banksia flowers, a busy scratchy mass of flower scarabs, speedy ants, fluttering butterflies, moths, beetles, possums, wasps, spiders, birds and yes, even bees.

It’s pretty obvious to guess the key here, it’s diversity. A range of pollinators provide their, ah hem, services to spread the love. To support such a diversity of pollinators, we indeed need that same variety in our plants, and the seasons in which they flower to support prolonged food sources for our pollinators.

The beauty of plants is most of them flower. Those that don’t, like ferns, still have their ways. We may not notice when or even where these little events occur, not all blooms are as conspicuous as a rose or a daffodil, and not all spores are as showy as the annual Pine Pollen haze (and if you stop to think about that, it’s kind of kinky.).

A landscape of variety is what becomes a smorgasbord to our pollinators. This week a glut of Eucalyptus flowers, next week a roadside of dandelions, onto your apple tree, your strawberry flowers before the fruit plants diminish and it’s back to gorging on tea tree and bottlebrush. Come late Spring and the flavours change again, with a feast of daisy bush, blooms on tomatoes, chilies and eggplants, a splash of honeysuckle and a good dose of thyme. Into Summer  . . . well you get the point.

Abundance is required. A single plant in flower offers a mere aperitif, forcing the pollinator to move on, using valuable energy. Not all pollinators are fickle about their food source, a native bee won’t just eat native flower pollen, nor will a European Honeybee stick to an English Cottage garden. Planting in clumps of colour, with different flowering time, with different flower shapes will offer a wonderful range of nectar and pollen to the many garden visitors.

Food sources for larvae are also important. It’s not just about the flowers, a caterpillar has to eat something and that something is usually green, and we have to stop squishing/spraying all the grubs! Scarab larvae will be hiding in your soil, bee larvae in a hive somewhere (not necessarily a square one); wasp larvae may be forming blisters living between the leaf cuticles. As important as flowers are, the greens are good too; providing a balanced diet.

Habitat for hibernation and shelter in the form of wood detritus, tree hollows, tree bark and general soil leaf litter provide wonderful places for our pollinators to have a Winter nap, if they are hibernators. Being too tidy in the garden is not always a good thing. The organic material also plays a roll in protecting larva from the weather and foraging birds and bandicoots.

A garden is a wonderful place; it provides us an opportunity to contribute to the life cycle of so many creatures, and to benefit them in a very positive way by increasing our garden diversity. You don’t need to turn your front lawn into a vegie patch, but you may choose to increase the number of low maintenance bottlebrushes to your street side verge. Sneaky gorilla garden - a seed bomb of local native flowers into an abandoned lot. A garden full of roses can be supplemented by a groundcover of Alyssum and Campanula giving food and shelter while keeping weeds out.

Diversity is simple; it’s a matter of abundance and generosity. We reap the benefits in plentiful fruit and vegetables, more abundant vegetation, prolific flowering and fantastic seeding.

Lee Adamson-Ringk is a Horticulturist and Environmental Scientist. She lives on a small farm in the North of Tasmania and spends a lot of time watching the workings of our natural and manmade world while apparently potting plants and pulling weeds for a living. She is taking part in this year’s Sprout Producers Program.

(All photos supplied by Killiecrankie Nursery)


European Bee on Echinacea in Autumn


Native Bee on Red Dogwood


Flower Scarab on Butterfly Bush


Tapertip Onion and Native Bee


European Honey Bee on Fennel in Summer


Jewel Beetle on Tea Tree in Spring



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